Refuting the charges of sexual harassment levelled against one of its faculty members, the Kalakshetra Foundation on Saturday, 25 March, urged the National Commission for Women (NCW) to consider the actions the premier art institute has already initiated.
Foundation Chairman S Ramadorai condemned the “scurrilous campaign” being carried out on social media to malign the institute’s reputation. The Foundation refuted the students’ allegations in a statement issued a day after the Chennai City Police Commissioner Shankar Jiwal was asked to probe the charges.
State police chief, DGP C Sylendra Babu, ordered the probe after the NCW had asked his department to book the faculty member and the institute’s director, Revathi Ramachandran, for shielding the accused.
The NCW issued the directive in a series of tweets on Wednesday, 22 March.
NCWIndia has taken cognizance of the matter.Chairperson @sharmarekha has written to DGP Tamil Nadu to ensure that relevant provisions are invoked in the FIR against the accused teacher and also against the Director of Kalakshetra for shielding the accused.https://t.co/sdzIMu5o5i
— NCW (@NCWIndia) March 21, 2023
Foundation welcomes further probe
The Foundation said in the statement that it welcomed any further inquiry by the NCW if it was not satisfied with the steps taken so far.
“The Foundation has requested the NCW to consider the actions already taken, and that if the NCW was not satisfied with their adequacy the Foundation would welcome further inquiry by it and the same has been notified to the appropriate authorities, including the Union Ministry of Culture,” the statement said.
It further stated that over the past few months, a scurrilous campaign was being carried out through social media posts, casting aspersions on the functioning of Kalakshetra Foundation, targeting some members of faculty, and also maligning the institution’s credibility.
Baseless allegations: Kalakshetra
“The Foundation has a robust and active Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), constituted as per the judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Visakha’s case, which comprises the Director, two faculty members/teachers, and an experienced lady lawyer, and a detailed inquiry was conducted over a period of two-and-a-half months to ascertain their (the allegations’) veracity,” the Foundation said.
“It was found that the allegations were unfounded and baseless. During this period, Kalakshetra Foundation has not received any active complaints as per the guidelines of the PoSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment),” the statement claimed.
“The relationship between the Guru and Shishya is sacrosanct, more so when these students have been entrusted to our care by their parents in full faith that the Foundation will protect and take care of them,” the statement said, adding that the Foundation would stand by its commitment to providing an inclusive and safe space for every artist, student, and staff.
Also read: DAV management terminates director over sexual assault of 4-year-old
Move to politicise issue: Alumni
Former students and women’s organisations that have taken up the issue told South First that there were too many loopholes in the Foundation’s statement.
“The fact that the director of the institute is the chairperson of the ICC makes all these inquiries pointless. The UGC guidelines and the PoSH Act require that a student representative should be on the inquiry committee. I’m sure no such thing has happened,” they said.
Everyone, including the survivors, was being projected as Leftists wanting to malign the institution, its director, and Hindu traditions, they claimed.
Also read: Police inspector suspended for sexual harassment of woman complainant
Police yet to receive complaints
Confirming that the DGP had ordered a probe into the allegations, sources in the Chennai police Commissionerate said that the city police have not yet received any complaints.
“If they come forward with complaints, their identities will be protected,” a police officer told South First.
On the further course of action, he said a case would be registered as directed by the NCW before checking the ICC records and complaints.
Meanwhile, a woman complained against former director Leela Samson.
In her complaint to the Adayar police, she accused Samson of revealing her identity in a social media post, and unnecessarily dragging her name into the controversy.
Though the alleged post was later deleted, the complainant said there was a larger conspiracy to tarnish her reputation.